The interest in the study of ventricular function has grown considerably in the last decades. In this review, we analyse the extreme values of ventricular function as obtained with Doppler echocardiography. We mainly focus on the parameters that have been used throughout the history of Doppler echocardiography to assess left ventricular (LV) systolic and diastolic function. The 'athlete's heart' would be the highest expression of ventricular function whereas its lowest expression is represented by the failing heart, independently from the original aetiology leading to this condition. There are, however, morphological similarities (dilation and hypertrophy) between the athlete's and the failing heart, which emerge as physiological and pathophysiological adaptations, respectively. The introduction of new assessment techniques, specifically speckle tracking, may provide new insight into the properties that determine ventricular filling, specifically left ventricular twisting. The concept of ventricular function must be always considered, although it may not be always possible to distinguish the normal heart of sedentary individuals from that of highly trained hearts based solely on echocardiographic or basic studies.
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